Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's All Becoming Real

Hey there,

Wow, this week has been a hectic one!

The student organization that I am a co-chair for, SURJ, finally held its conference. It was this past Saturday the 25th, and we finally got to see the results of all our hard work. We had been planning the conference since June! Overall, the conference went really well, and it was great to hear that attendees found out about campus and community organizations that they want to become a part of. I was especially excited to meet Monica Simpson, the executive director of SisterSong. SisterSong is a nonprofit organization with the mission "to amplify and strengthen the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to ensure reproductive justice through securing human rights." Monica Simpson was the keynote speaker for the conference and she talked all about reproductive justice, which is a term I mention in my fellowship paper.

In addition to seeing the results from months and months of conference planning, I am also seeing the results of my research for the fellowship! We are wrapping up the rough drafts of our papers, and I am so excited to see all my hard work coming together. The trip to the UN is becoming more and more real to me, and I cannot wait to present all my research!

If you are interested in hearing all the fellows research, I recommend you come to WomenNC's event on February 20th.

Hope to see you there!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bringing Myself to my Presentation

This past week was the first time we as fellows gave short presentations of our research--the first time we put it into words shared with others. It was also one of the top five most stressful weeks of my life  to date—the kind with uncharacteristic mishaps and cruel humor. All the usual margins I plan my life with ran out and one small accident caused every responsibility and demand on my life to come crashing one into the other. By the time our presentations came around I was not prepared in the manner I wanted to be. This, however, turned out to be an important stage in the process for me.

The importance of our topics and the huge honor of presenting at CSW can, at times, create a sense of intimidation and a push to dress your research in a certain way. There's a temptation to try and bring what I think they're looking for--to give them performance instead of passion. But that drive can sometimes rub away the most importance pieces of your message till it no longer comes out as you. And if you’re not presenting you, how can you present your passion?

Our president, Beth, has spoken often about the importance of bringing our passion. She reminded us of this when we chose our topics--that people will be moved by the things that matter to us.

That night, I didn’t have time to think about how to phrase my research into what I thought others wanted to hear. All I had to bring to the table was me--my research and my passion. This forced me to give my research in the most truthful manner—true to what I had found and true to who I am and my passion for the subject. It wasn’t a carefully crafted slant of “here’s why you should care about this,” but a simple, “here’s why I care about this.” Sometimes you have to be caught off guard so what comes out of you is unaffected and deeply real.

By the time March comes around, we will have stood in front of many imaginary and real audiences. We will have prepared and practiced over and over. But what I prepare and what I present will ultimately come from the preparation of my life. How I have invested my time, how I have come to see the world, and the passions I have cultivated are all also preparation. I am preparation. And I hope that what I bring them is true to me—that everything I have practiced and prepared will only enhance the truth and passion of my topic. I hope that what shines through in my presentation, ultimately, is an important story that matters and comes from who I am.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Snow Brown and The Seven Detergents" by Banu Subramaniam

Hello everyone!

I wanted to make a quick blog post, and seeing as this is my designated "break" from my research, I thought I should seize the opportunity.

The inspiration for this post comes from a library, where I stumbled upon a metanarrative (apparently that is a "narrative about a narrative". Thanks!) The story, written by Banu Subramaniam, follows the journey of a young, aspiring scientist, named Sneha. I don't want to give away anything, but have no fear! I included a link to a PDF copy below for convenience.

 Snow Brown and the Seven Detergents

This re-creation of the classic fairy tale had me both captivated and appalled from start to finish. At the same time, I felt a new wave of inspiration for my research as I was reading. If I can find more stories like this one, I might start a book club.

Until next time!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Updates from Noreen

Hello everybody,
I hope all of you are having a wonderful long weekend. I know this is my first blog post, but never fear, once I start blogging, it’s pretty hard for me to stop. There is so much I need to update everybody about!
As many of you know, I have changed my Topic from “The Role of Men and Boys in Women’s Education” to “The Role of Men and Boys in the Elimination of Violence against Women.” Some of you might ask why I changed my mind; the answer is that, simply put, I couldn’t find the right local organization for what I wanted. This was sort of a blessing in disguise though. I realized that there would still be a huge education aspect in my research with regards to this topic anyway, and it’s been easier to find information for my paper with this new topic, so I have lots of material to work with.
Also, I’ve found a great way to relate this topic to me personally. I am going to talk about how in my own country, Egypt, the amount of violence against women has increased so much since the Arab Spring. I've been doing a bunch of research on it, and I think it would be pretty good way to tie it to myself. Did you all know that on 3 July 2013, it was reported that about 91 women were raped and sexually abused in Tahrir Square in 4 days, and by some estimates, the figure was about 169. These are only the reported figures, so there’s no way to really know the real number.
Anyway, don’t be alarmed if I start posting a couple of blog posts in a row. I’ve got to make up for lost time. I will leave with this:
“The ultimate measure of a man(or woman) is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” --- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day!


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Preparing for CSW...

Us fellows just wrapped up a wonderful session with the effervescent Barbara Moore this past Wednesday.

In particular, we focused on the mechanics behind delivering a presentation. Barbara introduced the topic by taking the floor and giving examples of effective and ineffective body language, highlighting the importance of not merely content, but also delivery. With precise gestures and a natural, but deliberate, rhythm and cadence, she demonstrated how to engage and captivate an audience.

Following this, each of us gave a five minute presentation as an update on the progress of our research thus far. I must say, if Wednesday's presentations were any indication, we're going to be a polished and persuasive bunch at CSW! Despite limitations on preparatory time, I feel as if the presentations I watched were eloquent, well executed, and, perhaps most importantly, clear of purpose.

Another key element of our meeting included reviewing proper practice in networking at an event like CSW. Anise spoke to the haphazardness that is often characteristic of UN-organized events and that we shouldn't be taken aback by empty cafeterias, informal dress, and a general informality. In addition to that, other participants highlighted the cultural norms behind varying methods of giving and receiving business cards. A previous year's fellow encouraged us to take chances and reach out to people whenever possible--even suggesting sitting down at a table of strangers for lunch and seeing what happens.

Needless to say, finally solidifying and speaking about these elements of the CSW Fellowship experience have raised my levels of excitement and anticipation for the event itself. I think I speak for all of us when I say that one of the most important elements of this experience may very well be the connections we make with other advocates for gender equality and women's rights around the world.

As Jeff said, at the end of CSW we shouldn't have any business cards left. Let's see if we can make that happen!

Keep fighting,


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Time is Flying

We are less than two weeks into the new year, but goodness 2014 has been incredibly hectic. I recently moved back to UNC and now I feel as though I am moving at 90 miles a minute. This month is full of important dates and deadlines.  Although I am feeling very overwhelmed, I am also excited for all that is ahead. This month alone I begin my internship at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center where I will assist the Latin@ Services Coordinator; I will help to host the Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ) Womyn's Issues Now [WIN] Conference; AND I will be submitting my rough draft of my WomenNC fellowship paper.

This month is bound to fly by, but at the same time, I hope I am able to enjoy everything. I am fortunate enough to be engaged in activities that are related to my passion for Women's Studies/social justice/public health/gender equality/etc, and I am one step closer to presenting at the UN!!!! I know March is still a little ways away, but I am so excited about the trip. I cannot wait to meet people, present my research, and attend amazing discussions and presentations! I hope all of this goes smoothly and I shall keep you updated!

Happy 2014!

A Research Gem!

Have you ever found a research gem?  A stack of old photographs, a bundle of 1930 newspaper clippings, or in my case.... a 75 page report of Youth and the Millennium Development Goals written by researchers from Youth Organizations all over the world.  This week's Buzzfeed time was replaced with reading this publication by a 2004 AD HOC Working Group on Youth and the MDGs.    This report explains the importance of youth involvement in implementing the MDGs.  As is a trend with my research thus far, this piece was written by researchers from youth groups all over the world, which is awesome!  I love that the very authorship of the pieces that I am reading reflects the practice of youth involvement.  

There was a quote that stuck with me from the report:

“Young leaders represent our hope for the future, and have the greatest potential to push for realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015, established by the United Nations.” (page 8)

Prime Minister of Thailand His Excellency Thaksin Shinawatra

You are correct indeed, His Execellency Thaksin Shinawatra!  As I learned in this report, youth ages 10-24 make up 1.7 billion of our human population- that's over a fourth of the population; yet still, we are the most underrepresented groups.  Despite all of the apathetic attitudes youth are often perceived to have, the report shows that there are many youth involved in making progress towards the MDG goals.  Each of the MDG goals is outlined with attention to how they affect youth, then youth solutions are given and case studies are provided that show specific instances of youth involvement with an MDG that has been effective.

I call this report a gem for a few different reasons.  First of all, Youth involvement in Social Justice is not an explicit MDG and I have found it challenging to sift through articles, declarations and reports that speak to my topic.  Secondly, the article painted a picture of what youth involvement looks like. I read about 35 person organizations with peer mentorship on the importance of safe sex, online youth forums that give youth networks to talk about their passion and findings for justice work.  Lastly, I found out about key sources of adult support for these groups- by donating space, providing mentoring, funding, or the legitimacy of a corporate name, I found how these youth initiatives find support.  

I am glad that I spent time with this report and learning more about my topic.  May your clicks, scrolls, and searches lead you somewhere wealthy! 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"This is our year!"


If you're anything like me, you have probably promised yourself a time or two in this 2k14 that this is your year.  Well, I hope it is, but today I want to flash back to 1985 when millions of youth around the world could truly say "This is our year!"

Check out this excerpt from the United Nations 1985 General Assembly:

"Recognizing the profound importance of the direct participation of youth in
shaping the future of mankind and the valuable contribution that youth can
make in the implementation of the new international economic order based on
equity and justice,"
 Considering it necessary to disseminate among youth the ideals of peace,
respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, human solidarity and
dedication to the objectives of progress and development"
It was for this reason that the United Nations named 1985 International Youth Year.  During this year
all States, all United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, regional commissions and the international intergovernmental NGOs concerned, and youth organizations came together in recognition that we must implement an effective plan for the youth role in democracy and justice.  The full title of the year was "International Youth Year: Participation, Development, Peace."

Though the year did not mark the very beginning of a global recognition that youth involvement in
social justice and United Nations Engagement was important, it set out of define and measure youth engagement.  A decade after IYY (International Youth Year) the United Nations developed the World Program of Action for Youth.  These conventions brought together hundreds of youth that would create an action plan with goals and indicators for youth specific issues and youth obstacles of engagement. Here are the goals for The World Programme for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond.

It's cool to know an entire year was dedicated to youth participation in human rights work.  It is a reminder that there is a global understanding that we as young, emerging adults have a right to help make decisions that affect our daily lives and a responsibility to the solutions of local, national and global issues.

IYY and its youth forum descendents serve as the foundational base as I explore youth engagement with social justice today.  Almost two decades later, I beg this question: Did IYY keep its New Years Resolution?

Additional Source: World Youth Forum Reflects Growing Youth Power

A Transformative Standalone Gender Goal?

Greetings from a sleepy pousada in the countryside of the Brazilian state of Goiás, about four hours from Brasília. While I may be far away from the community of CSW Fellows in North Carolina, it seems fitting to update you all on my topic from an international location.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have a keen interest in the Post-2015 agenda, how the lessons of the MDGs will inform future progress, and how gender is being included therein. Alongside my mentors at WomenNC, I spent a lot of time trying to find an organization working in the community that is also publishing on the Post-2015 agenda. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most North Carolina NGOs are far too preoccupied with preventing domestic abuse, advocating for women at the state legislature, and tackling a myriad other challenges to spent the majority of their time considering this topic. How was I to find and develop a partnership?

Reflecting further, I decided to look at my topic from a more holistic perspective cognizant of my interests and previous work. Of course, as with so many things in life, the answer lay not in the swirling depth of the unknown, but rather in front of my nose.

In the summer of 2011, I interned with IntraHealth International--a local North Carolina NGO that sprang forth from a global health initiative of the UNC School of Medicine. Since then, IntraHealth has completed projects in more than 90 countries, focused specifically on the challenges health workers face in empowering their communities. An entire unit of the organization is dedicated to gender equality. Luckily, while completing my internship in Bamako, Mali, I was also able to connect with many of the gender experts working at IntraHealth. These selfsame experts have expressed much enthusiasm at partnering with me to complete this work and help showcase some of the wonderful work IntraHealth is doing for women all over the world.

My upcoming challenges include determining how to integrate all three levels of the project (local, national, and international) coherently into a final report, while still highlighting the Post-2015 Agenda. Perhaps the proposed transformative standalone gender goal is a good lens from which to approach these topics?

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below--

Até mais!


Friday, January 3, 2014

Organizing Partnerships

Hello again!

I wanted to take a moment to update everyone on my partnerships with organizations. The past weeks have been filled with meetings, conferences, and a whole lot of paperwork. For my research, I've decided to focus on two different organizations--the Science Hut's Imhotep Academy as well as the PURPOSE Institute.

Imhotep Academy is a program that focuses largely underrepresented students (usually in middle school) and introduces them to science, math, and technology. By using many engaging methods, from field trips to experiments, the program opens students up to STEM studies. As fun as the program is on the surface, there's a lot of work that's fueling the program. By taking part in the winter session, I plan to learn more about the Academy's model and what makes it work.

PURPOSE Institute, on the other hand, mainly focuses on faculty development in STEM research. However, when I met with the directors of the program, I learned that they also have many events focused on girls in STEM. Although these programs are still in the works, many of the trial runs have been enormously successful. In the future, I plan on meeting with past participants, to get their own view of these programs.

Now that I've established these partnerships, I plan to see where their models and data will take me, and I can't wait to see how it impacts the research I've already acquired.

Until next time!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, Continued Developments

Hello All!

I hope that everyone has had a fantastic holiday season and that you're all ready for 2014! I can tell this year is going to be big for women's rights--a gut feeling perhaps, but as I delve into my research I can't help but look forward to all the advancements this year will bring.

My research on women's education has certainly been interesting. Most of my data has come from books (many were presents from my family :) and so much of it has captured my attention. However, the most notable book has been I Am Malala.

One of the biggest struggles I've had as a fellow is making the personal connection to the research. Sure I've always felt strongly about women's empowerment and education, but it wasn't until I began reading I Am Malala that I realized why I felt so inspired to delve further into the issue. It was my research on Malala that built up my drive on the subject. When news about the girl named Malala began to circulate around the media, I found myself drawn to her work and words, and became introspective of my own role in women's right to education. On top of that, I found her youth to be one of the great sources of influence. As a young student myself, I was compelled to take action and speak up on the issue of women's education. Thus, I began looking at the educational system around me, and the role of women on the local level.

When I attended the UNA-USA's Post-2015 Development Agenda event (I discussed this in a previous blog post), I felt more aware of the education surrounding me.  Coupled with my Malala-initiated call to arms, this event rallied my determination even more. Not only did I feel inspired by Malala, I also felt involved with education on the home front.

After reflecting on why I feel so determined about the issue of women's education, I believe I've cracked the personal element of my own research. With this new awareness, I am eager to see how it takes form in my paper and presentation.

Until next time, friends!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome 2014!

The new year has arrived, and it now feels like this fellowship is in full speed. All of us fellows recently received an email reminding us that we are halfway through our fellowship! I cannot believe it has gone by so fast. I am now starting to believe that I really will be presenting at the UN. I am incredibly excited, and I hope I am able to bring interesting research to NY.

After visiting my two potential partnering organizations, I have decided I will mainly focus on Durham Connects. What I really love about the organization is that they go to the people. In this way, every single mother that wants care can receive it, whether or not she has transportation. I would like to do more research on the benefits of going to homes versus expecting patients to travel to hospitals, medical centers, clinics, etc. I am hoping to get this paper done soon and I cannot wait to learn more through my research!